José Berríos Is the Most Durable Pitcher in the AL

Injuries to the famously durable Gerrit Cole and Lucas Giolito shine a spotlight on Blue Jays starter José Berríos and his remarkable consistency.

Jose Berrios of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts as he strikes out a batter to end the top of the sixth inning of their MLB game against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre.
TORONTO, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 15: Jose Berrios #17 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts as he strikes out a batter to end the top of the sixth inning of their MLB game against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre on September 15, 2023 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)

For the past eight years, José Berríos has been one of the most durable arms in baseball.

First with the Minnesota Twins and now with the Toronto Blue Jays, the right-hander has put more than 200 MLB starts and 1200 MLB innings on his odometer before the age of 30. In an era when arm injuries are more frequent than ever, Berríos has never gone on the injured list. That’s an achievement in and of itself.

Since the 2016 trade deadline, when Berríos began taking regular turns in the Twins rotation, he ranks third among all pitchers in starts (207), fourth in innings pitched (1198.1), and fourth in batters faced (5048). The only person who has him beat in all three categories is reigning AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole

In his first start of the 2018 season, Berríos twirled nine scoreless innings, striking out six and walking just one. From that day onward, he has started every five games like clockwork. Indeed, his consistency is almost comical. He has made 32 starts in each of the past five full seasons, plus 12 starts during the shortened 2020 campaign. That’s one out of five of his team’s games – every year for six years.

Ad – content continues below

Only one other pitcher in Major League Baseball can say the same: Aaron Nola of the Philadelphia Phillies. Nola, Cole, and Berríos are also the only three starters to have qualified for the ERA title in each of the past six seasons.

Nola is easily the most durable starting pitcher in the National League right now. So, what about in the American League?

The Most Durable Arms in the American League

Besides Cole, no active AL pitcher has made more starts or thrown more innings than Berríos over the past six years.

Arguably, the next-most durable starter in that time has been Lucas Giolito. He has made an average of 31 starts per year for the past five full seasons, plus 12 in 2020. Had he recorded just one more out in 2022, he would have qualified for the ERA title that season; that would have put him in the elite club of starters to have qualified every year since 2018.

If we reduce the time frame to the past four years, Dylan Cease enters the durability conversation. Dating back to 2020, Cole and Berríos have made 108 starts each. Cease has made 109.

On Wednesday, the news broke that Cole would miss one to two months of the 2024 season with elbow inflammation. It is his first serious injury since 2016.

Ad – content continues below

That same day, the Red Sox announced that Giolito had undergone an internal brace procedure, effectively ending his 2024 season before it began.

Later that evening, the White Sox struck a deal with the Padres, shipping off Cease to the NL West.

In a single day, three of the most durable starters in AL were taken out of the picture. Cole can fight his way back in, especially if he only misses a month. Perhaps he’ll qualify for the ERA title, although his chances of making 30 starts are slim. As for Giolito, he has a long road ahead of him if he wants to be called durable ever again.

Meanwhile, Cease will give Nola a run for his money in Senior Circuit.

Thus, Jose Berríos is left standing alone as the pinnacle of durability in the American League. Other reliable arms include fellow Blue Jay Kevin Gausman and Mariners ace Luis Castillo, but neither is at quite the same level as Berríos.

Jose Berrios of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park.
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – OCTOBER 03: Jose Berrios #17 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on October 03, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

When it comes to injuries, nothing is certain. Cole and Giolito are proof positive that the most durable pitchers one day can succumb to elbow ailments the next. And that’s to say nothing of the freak injuries that befall dozens of players every year.

Ad – content continues below

Still, that’s no reason to discount durability. The average MLB team used 14 starting pitchers last year. That means most teams end up needing starters who didn’t even make the Opening Day 40-man roster. Every extra start that Berríos makes is a start that a lesser pitcher isn’t making. Case in point: The Blue Jays only used eight starting pitchers last year, the fewest in the AL.

Berríos may not be one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball. He’s not even the most dominant pitcher on the Blue Jays. All the same, there is no better bet in the American League to make 32 starts this season. That’s a real strength.

José Berríos made all kinds of headlines in 2023. He won his first Gold Glove. He was a strong candidate for Comeback Player of the Year. His early exit in the Wild Card Series was a national controversy in the Great White North.

Yet, his most impressive accomplishment – his singular durability and consistency – has largely flown under the radar. Perhaps this is the year that finally changes and Berríos gets his due.